How Hard Could It Be – Part 1

I heard that you are again leaving for another service trip abroad. Many of our cluster members are excited about this, knowing how you and your spouse respond unhesitatingly to missionary calls. Some are awestruck how easy it seems for you to be so calm - oblivious even - over the fact that you will leave behind family and livelihood for weeks on end. This all seems so natural to you, almost second nature, but for us it is rather unnerving and, quite frankly, too aggressive. I guess we just don't have a clear picture of what courage and commitment are all about. You however, have already developed a better view - one that is unobstructed by the cares and worries of life. On the other hand, our vision is truncated. One which remains blurred by clouds of doubt and fear, badly needing the light of faith and trust in Him who puts everything in order and who provides for all needs. You will have to teach us this wonderful lesson when you get back.

You really have a lot of stories to tell given your vast experience in this area of service. At this stage of your Christianity I am sure you no longer have any illusions over the travails you meet in mission work and the difficulties staring you blankly on the face in each step of the way. I am reminded of the words of St. Paul in 2 Cor. 11:23-27, which I am certain have given you ample warning, relative to the pains and even dangers associated with this work, despite (or is it because of?) which you still have chosen to proceed. Your consistency brings to mind some of my own personal experiences in evangelization work which however pale miserably in comparison with the way you have put this whole facet of service into a working and living practice. It may not be much, but maybe it will help to tell you about my own little tale if only to reinforce the importance of what you ardently wish to accomplish. Let me begin.

The First Meetings

During my years on overseas assignment for the company I work for, Christian community life was stressful. When I arrived in my foreign post, there was only one CFC (Couples For Christ) household, composed of 6 couples, to share life with. They were an instant family made possible through the work of missionary brothers and sisters who started the spadework and planted the CFC seed well ahead of us. They somehow made the moving in period so much easier and comforting than what it really was. Just imagine how disconsolate it could have been for my wife and I had we landed in this place without such community support. I know now that without their reassuring presence then, we would have been simply lost in nowhere land. But having been used to the crowded gatherings and vibrant prayer meetings in Manila, the thin and stiff reception we received was admittedly still disorienting. For one, the members knew only a handful of praise and worship songs, sang mostly in -1 level, and no. 9 and 13 were the standard favorites in household meetings. Prayers were also done while seated and discussions were, well… a little rigid and disorganized. The household head hardly made it to the meetings, and on our first one-on-one, confided that he was ready to quit. That was the good news. Let me tell you the bad.

Not long after our initial encounter, our household head made good on his earlier threat. He resigned irrevocably and just faded into other endeavors. That was the last I heard of him, although in fairness, his wife had not been exactly in the pink of health. I suppose they found CFC life to have become emotionally strenuous and consequently aggravating even to their physical well-being. Following in his footsteps though, 2 others left the community soon enough to set up their own ethnic prayer group, to the collective dismay of those of us who remained to pick up the pieces together and start all over anew. That was when we decided to replenish our number and so we held our very first CLP (Christian Life Program). Which was completed in roughly about 5 months because there were furloughs in between to give way to vacation trips of our lone couple-participant. Sadly, this couple too fell out almost immediately after the first regular household meeting. It took us another 6 months to hold the next CLP and finish with 4 new couples. By then, we knew God had given us a core group.

The First CLPs

Let me describe to you how this CLP was conducted and find for yourself similarities in many that you have handled in your own mission work. By God’s grace, the whole CLP program was a sheer exercise in self-help. Only 3 speakers gave the 13 talks while everyone acted as facilitator. I was the lone music ministry. And whoever was available acted as servant. There were times when one led the songs and the prayers, gave the talk and facilitated, served and arranged the venue, all in one evening. One-on-ones were held in offices or at open parks. We had practically no resources to deploy but there was not a single session without something to share in fellowship: cookies, candle, etc. The Lord’s Day at the end of the: program was, by this group's standard, sumptuous with sandwiches and tea to offer. The greatest constraint however was time. Everyone was pressed for it. The participants and the service team had to rush home after sessions to do housework: cook, clean, prepare for work the next day, etc. We didn't want to miss out on the flavor of a honest-to-goodness CLP so we stuck to the 13-week schedule and to the faithful conduct of each and every session. It was, as always, only by God's wonder that we were able to cope and from there steadily organize households that started to meet regularly.

The First Household Meetings

Let me tell you about our household meetings. In a land where modern conveniences abound, there is hardly any extra hand to help out, no maids, no cleaning lady (although I was fortunate enough to have one). Everyone has an assigned task to do. Husbands are on the job an average of 10-12 hours a day, rush home after work and help the spouse on some unfinished house chores. Wives in turn are busybodies tending the home, like cleaning, cooking, doing the laundry, babysitting, marketing, etc. Many still take on part time jobs to add to family income while some have full time office work - which leave them only a small window of time to fix up whatever is left undone at home. This is the backdrop of a typical household meeting day. An evening (or 2, depending on your service assignment) after a tiring day. When the only free time available for a respite from work will temporarily have to give way to share time with the community instead. Yet - and I am positive you will attest from your own personal experiences too - majority of the members remain joyfully faithful to their covenant with brothers and sisters. There seems to be some type of drawing power, and pleasant disposition, that bring them again and again in household meetings despite their exhausting schedules. The difficulties are somehow relegated into the background and even transformed into sources of strength and inspiration. I remember once we had this sister who had to breastfeed her newborn baby in between sharing and discussion in household meetings. Another sister who couldn't afford a ride home to Manila with her husband, who had to attend to his dying father, received not only solace but unsolicited contributions for plane fare as well. There are many more testimonies but the central theme is the same; i.e., the hurdles are inevitable yet surmountable.

Continue to Part 2

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